Methods for the Analysis of Choices and Evaluations


Changing an option’s appeal, advantage and share




Provided here is an introduction to the conceptual, measurement and analytical issues surrounding option change. A full appreciation of the material will benefit from a good understanding of Options Analysis.

It will not be the purpose of all Options Analysis users to change options. But it will be of common general interest to evaluate option variants and the implications of possible change.

The issue of “change” focuses attention on the relationships between global and individual perspectives which lie at the core of Options Analysis.

Changing options

An option to be changed may be a current existing option, a past option, or a scenario. Each is capable of being rated and each is capable of modification to yield a new, revised or changed option. For example, in the context of new product, service, policy or practice development, there may be clarity on basic elements of an option but a need to test amongst variant modifications, where the addition of each to the base represents a changed option.

Macro view

It is in the very nature of organisations, candidates, products, services, policies and practices to have a distinctive set of  characteristics, styles or modes of operation. This means that such options provide a more or less standardised source of influence on appeal ratings within a group. Obtaining the appropriate kinds of influence to yield desired share and advantage outcomes is key to obtaining relevant objectives and goals.

Despite uniformity of the source, the effects of any current or new option on appeal ratings, across a group, are likely to be variable in both scale and direction. This is mainly because of individuals differences in experience, perceptions, values, beliefs and current circumstances.

Revealing systematic patterns within this response diversity is the subject of Options Analysis parameter analysis. Options Analysis methods show how appeal, or changed appeal, affects option share and aggregate advantage and disadvantage within a selection set.

Micro view

Appeal, advantage, disadvantage and choice are basically individual-by-individual measures. No macro measure will move unless individual evaluations of options change. An essential prerequisite, therefore, is to understand what will change individual evaluations. But, different individuals will respond differently to different changes.

Reconciling and integrating the macro and micro views

The micro view of the evaluation and choice process is essential to the effective and efficient achievement of macro objectives. But, mainly because of the diverse, complex and varying character of responses between individuals, a simple summation of the micro choices provides inadequate insight on the macro outcome. To remedy this, the micro view of advantage, disadvantage and choice must be complemented by an appreciation of the macro effects in terms of aggregate advantage, disadvantage and share. It is this data which provides a basis for evaluating strategy and tactics of option change and on which Options Analysis is focused.

Macro view

To change share, advantage, and disadvantage, change option appeal

The logic of Options Analysis says that if you want to change share, advantage, or disadvantage, then you should change an option’s appeal. Or, in the case of blockage, such as unawareness or unfamiliarity, you should generate an appeal rating, then, if necessary, change it.

What level and type of change in appeal is wanted or needed?

How appeal should be changed depends on change objectives: increasing or defending share, increasing loyalty or support, reducing vulnerability, etc.

Change also depends on a current option’s share, advantage and disadvantage profile. The comparative appeal, advantage, disadvantage and share profile produced by Options Analysis will reveal an option’s strengths and weakness and show threats and opportunities relative to other options in its selection set.

For share, there may be areas where a relatively small effort might yield large returns or where a competitor’s small effort may make major inroads to the loyalty or share of, say, your customers. Similarly, there may be areas where the level of advantage is considered to be insufficient or disadvantage undesirably large for tactical or strategic reasons.

Options Analysis, especially through simulation, allows you to review how changing particular parameters will deliver changes in appeal to modify advantage, disadvantage or share. Such analysis indicates where change efforts might be effectively addressed, the size and character of change needed, or where effort may be ineffectual or wasteful. Where the parameters of appeal have an entangled relationship there will be both added flexibility and complexity.

Pinpointing the relevant change parameters, and, thereby, the character of change required, is important.

Searching for the right changes

The nature of the modification required is indicated by the parameter change desired. For example, a change likely to raise average appeal will usually be quite different from one increasing contrasts between options.

Option modifications to change appeal may be fairly obvious or demand a lot of creative and analytical effort. If a change in average appeal is desired, then examine modifications that may have or are known to have general appeal. If increased disparity is required, then you would usually look for changes that add enthusiasm amongst those with above average appeal for the option (even though it would reduce appeal for those with below average appeal). If an increase in contrast effects is wanted, then look for changes that will differentiate the option so that when it has high appeal other options will have low appeal. And so on. (A listing of the parameters, with examples of parameter change, is provided in the ChangeComponents.htm document in the support materials package.)

Unavoidable underlying complexity is bound up in development, selection and implementation of modifications. If not taken into account, efforts may be counterproductive. Modifications also affect areas not targeted for change. For example, if a targeted change involves increased appeal disparity, but the option change is negatively correlated with the antecedent option, the outcome will be decreased disparity! (Common results of mixing antecedent option and change appeal distributions, taking non-target parameters into account, are listed in AppealAttributesAssociations.htm accompanying the  Options Analysis files.)

While both Options Analysis and simulation of past data are able to play an important support role in evaluating potential outcomes, field data on possible change is an essential part of the assessment. This provides a sounder basis for further analysis.

Underlying complexity and its uncertainty plus the problems of establishing behaviour accurately based on verbal propositions (at the pre-implementation stage) need to be addressed progressively through:

1.  Generation of a wide range of possible changes, change variants, etc. for evaluation and measurement. (Data on these may be collected as either input to design of potential solutions, or, for evaluation of potential changes, or both.)

2.  Testing or piloting new options for change in global appeal and on both target and non-target parameters.

3.  Monitoring and tracking changed options against organisational objectives.

Options Analysis parameter and simulation analysis provide support for all these steps.

Micro view

A dynamic process model for individual evaluations and choice

The bedrock of change in share, advantage, and disadvantage involves the perceptions, evaluations and behaviour of individuals. A dynamic process model of the individual, in PersonalChoiceModel.PPT, includes personal evaluation and preference relationships, and shows how antecedent option appeal, perceptions of attributes, and other inputs are potential influences of current or future option appeal and choice. (This is a Powerpoint file included in the downloaded support materials.)

To change option appeal, change that option’s attributes or attribute perceptions

For an individual, the change in appeal for a modified option compared to an antecedent or reference option will depend on (all else being equal) the joint effects of:

1.  Perceptions of the modified option as being a different option.

2.  The significance of the change.

This means, for example, that if the scale of the change is large but the significance is small, then the individual’s change in revised option appeal will be small. If these input weights are reversed the result will be the same, and so on.

It should be emphasised that the perspective just described is analytical only. There is no special reason to believe that individual’s adopt a stepwise procedure operating on these components. Nonetheless, these ideas are potentially useful for considering option change.

Options Analysis measurement is limited to global assessments of variant options. This has the important advantage of incorporating interaction effects between the antecedent option and its modifications. Here the combined effects of change are revealed in the appeal measurement differences between each individual’s ratings for antecedent and modified options.

Potential change attributes and attribute perception change

Potential change attributes include any option characteristic or association that may affect overall option appeal. Such attributes may be intrinsic to an option, material characteristics, structures or processes, consequences of selection or usage, they may involve performance, accessibility or normative considerations, and may include content, source, delivery and character of associated information.

For any individual, an attribute may be present or absent, known, hidden, overlooked, obscured or forgotten. In each person’s evaluation process an attribute may be salient or non-salient, it may be highly, moderately, or poorly valued, it may be more of less strongly believed, or valued consequences may be well or poorly understood. Both current or new attributes may be capable of being changed on these characteristics and result in changed option appeal.

Measuring changes in option appeal

Options Analysis deals with whole options which may include special reference to variant aspects. In this way the contextual integrity is preserved.

Modified option attributes may be presented to potential choosers in a conditional format which closely reflects the revision process. To paraphrase: “How would you rate the attractiveness of this option?” This could be followed by: “Considering … [the inclusion, the exclusion, or, presence or level of this attribute]…, how would you rate the attractiveness of the (same) option?” Repetition of this second question could be used to deal with a list of attributes or attribute combinations or attribute levels. The significance of current attributes of an existing option may be measured in a similar way. Obviously, close attention to the nature of the options, the selection set, the variations to be explored, and possible ordering effects, will be necessary to craft a satisfactory set of questions and methods for their application, including controls for bias.

This framework of prior and revised option appeal has important analytical advantages. The same appeal metric is applied to all key elements. The revised appeal rating incorporates both the changed attribute value plus any synergistic or interaction effects with the antecedent option. It requires no separate attribute ratings and no weights for the significance of antecedent option and attribute change. It maintains the integrity of appeal measures generated, individual by individual (without any fudging of macro weighting). The data can be directly input to Options Analysis for analysis between antecedent and changed options, or amongst option variants or alternative options in the relevant selection set.

A basic premise of Options Analysis is that the nature of change amongst a group of people is commonly diverse. Change will usually drive appeal in differing directions to varying degrees for different people depending on the nature of the change. The scale and character of changes in option appeal are indicated by differences in share, advantage, and disadvantage across parameters between analysis results for comparative selection sets.

Measurement methods and the prospects for change

There are important differences between evaluation of option change propositions and experience-based change evaluations. The key difference for attribute evaluation is the salience of the attribute change. In a questionnaire survey it is impossible to refer to a change or implied change without referring to the attribute in question. This induces a super-salience for the change. It ensures that the change receives disproportionate attention and weight of a kind that may only be approached with “saturation” advertising. In actual experience of an option, these change attributes are likely to have much lower salience. (Levels of salience may be tested by preceding such change evaluations with tests of unprompted attribute awareness.)

While results from applying verbal change propositions may be regarded as approaching their maximum potential, some key functions of this pre-testing research are likely to be substantially unaffected. These include:

1.  Determining whether distribution changes accord with strategic and tactical needs i.e. are the changes occurring on parameters which are likely to deliver the desired share, advantage, or disadvantage objectives.

2.  Establishing the relative scale of change between alternative propositions. This is useful:

a)  to identify the most promising modifications,

b)  whether any of the proposed changes are likely to be sufficiently large to be worth pursuing, and

c)  which changes can be weeded out as ineffectual even at this gross level.

This research precedes actual introduction of the revised option. Beyond this, field testing, tracking and monitoring studies are important to confirm the existence, scale, focus, continuity and appropriateness of appeal change to meet both macro and micro needs in the context of alternative options.

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